Mindfulness can help us to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.
It is also a key ingredient in self-compassion.
But are you too busy to practice mindfulness in your daily life?
Well, think again. It doesn’t take much time to practice mindfulness.
You can practice mindfulness in one minute or less.
In fact, I would contest there is no element of time in mindfulness. Mindfulness is the state of being in the present moment. It is being aware of your thoughts, emotions, and body without having any judgment of what you experience.
When you are fully present, there is no concept of time. There is only now. Mindfulness practice is about shifting your awareness and paying attention to what you want to focus on. You can do this at an instant and this doesn’t take any time.
The reason why most people think they have no time to perform mindfulness is that they have confused mindfulness with meditation. Yes, mindfulness can also be a form of meditation. You can sit down in a comfortable position and watch your thoughts or breath for 15 minutes. But this formal practice of mindfulness meditation isn’t necessary.
You can be mindful at any time anywhere. There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life. In this blog post, I’ll give you some strategies and examples to help you cultivate mindfulness daily.
Here’s How to Practice Mindfulness in Daily Life
1. Tag it to your existing routine.
If you are someone who is always busy and have no time, the easiest way to practice mindfulness is to tag your mindfulness training to your existing routine or something that you have to do daily.
For example, you can practice mindfulness when you are brushing your teeth. Instead of thinking about what you have to do later at work or the troubles you had yesterday, shift your attention to the brush and your teeth. Feel every stroke that you make. This will bring you back to the present moment.
You don’t have to set aside extra time for mindfulness
since these are the activities you have to do anyway.
Here are some examples of daily tasks in which you can add mindfulness practices to and how you can do it:
- Waking up: Take a few deep breaths and notice the expansion and contraction of your body before you start your day.
- Eating: Chew your food slowly and really taste the flavors of the food.
- Commuting: Put down your mobile phone and focus on the external environment. Take a look at what other people are doing or just close your eyes and go within.
- Waiting: Do nothing. Just feel your body and pay attention to your breath. Let go of any negative thoughts that might arise, for example, “Why is this taking so long?”
- Walking: Feel the sole of your feet against the ground. Focus on the process of walking instead of getting to your destination.
- Cleaning or doing chores: Focus on the tasks. Wash your plates gently and not think about anything else.
- Communicating: Slow down and take the time to listen to what other people have to say. Don’t think what you have to say next when you are listening to another person.
- Showering: Feel the water flowing through your hair and your body. Allow your body to relax and wind down completely.
- Sleeping: Notice the rise and fall of your chest, and follow its rhythms. Let it hypnotize you to sleep.
2. Use external reminders.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness but the biggest problem that most of us face when developing a mindfulness habit is we don’t remember to do it.
We are so used to doing these daily tasks unconsciously and automatically, sometimes it’s difficult to change our old habits. The solution to this is to have lots of external reminders everywhere, especially when you are just starting out.
If you tend to be on your phone or computer a lot, set alarms on these electronic devices to wake you up from unconsciousness. You can name the alarm as “What are you doing now?”, “Pay attention to your breath right now.”, or “Stop for a moment.”
At your home or workplace, you can also put post-it notes at various places, for example, the fridge, inside your cabinet or outside the drawer. So whenever you saw these notes, they can remind you to practice mindfulness.
Changing a habit takes repetition and time.
Even the monks need reminders.
In the monastery, there are bells to bring the monks back to the present. They are called the “Bell of Mindfulness”. In our life, we have to create our own “bells” to prompt us to breathe deeply and be mindful of our body, thoughts, and emotions. Don’t feel that having reminders is too troublesome, useless or amateurish.
These simple cues are what helps to build a lasting habit. Even the professional mindfulness practitioners like the monks rely on these simple cues continuously. So why don’t you?
3. Give attention to how you do things, not what you do.
Most of us focus on what we do. But when it comes to mindfulness training, it’s not so much about what you do but how you do it. The quality of doing matters more than the quantity of doing.
So for example, what is your mood when you are working? Are you feeling anxious and rushing to complete your work before the deadline? Or are you focus on the current task at hand and not trying to get ahead of yourself into a distant future where you have to deliver the work?
When you are watching the TV, are you really enjoying and aware of what you are watching? Or are you just randomly switching channels just to past your time?
If you feel that the quality of doing is unpleasant,
you can change it immediately.
Even though mindfulness is about being in the present moment and accepting what is. Once you recognize that the way you are doing something doesn’t serve you, you can change it immediately. “Accepting what is” doesn’t mean that you have to keep yourself stuck or stagnant at status quo. It’s just letting yourself see the state you are in now.
If you had chosen an ineffective, unconscious path of action previously, you can always choose again. Mindfulness practices just provide you with information on what is. It tells you how you are doing the task. You get to decide what to do with this information.
4. Bring your mind back gently.
Our mind wanders from time to time. Mindfulness practice helps to re-center ourselves and bring our mind back to the present moment. One of the key element of mindfulness though is being non-judgmental with what we observe about ourselves.
So if you catch yourself surfing the Internet mindlessly, your role is not to judge yourself and be self-critical. Your role as a mindfulness practitioner is to accept that you haven’t been conscious of your action all this while and gently bring your mind back home. Then, do something else with intention this time around.
Treat mindfulness practice like a game.
It’s like your mind is walking aimlessly and it’s about to fall off the edge of the table. Your objective in this game is to keep bringing it back to center. When our mind get lost in the past or future, bring it back to the present moment.
Mindfulness is not complicated but it’s not easy too. One myth about mindfulness is that we need to be perfect at it and be mindful at all time. The reality is most of us will find it difficult to be mindful all the time. And hence, the need for mindfulness practice. The more we practice, the better we get at it.
Don’t see mindfulness practice as a goal you need to achieve. It’s more like a habit you can develop to increase the awareness you have for yourself.
5. Single-task. Do one thing at a time.
I understand when you are busy, it seems as though there are many things for you to do and complete. But it’s much harder to be mindful when you multi-task.
Our mind can only place attention on one thing at a time. When you are multi-tasking, you have to switch among different parts of your mind and it takes time to switch from one mental process to another. It actually hinders productivity instead of increasing productivity.
Furthermore, when you have a habit of multi-tasking, your mind is trained to jump from task to task. This makes your mindfulness practice so much more challenging as you’ll find it more difficult to sustain your attention on the present moment.
Give your current task your full attention.
Again, this goes back to the quality of doing. Are you focusing on one task or are you spreading your attention on multiple things? When you are walking, are you walking or are you thinking about something else in your mind? When you are eating, are you eating or are you watching a TV program at the same time?
Examine your current lifestyle and habits will help you determine where you can be more mindful and present.
6. Take baby steps first.
Once again, I have to stress that you don’t have to do things perfectly. When you are just starting with mindfulness practices, take baby steps. You don’t have to do a major overhaul to your current lifestyle.
In fact, it’s better to take small steps forward and succeed than to make a big change and give up within a month or less. It gives you more confidence.
So select the activity you want to add mindfulness practice to
and start from there.
If you feel that you want to be more mindful while you commute to work, then do it. But if you feel that eating while watching a movie saves you time, then by means go ahead. For your information, I still sit in front of the television while I eat my meals. But I only do this during weekends and sometimes weekdays dinner.
So not only can you select the activity in which you want to add mindfulness practice to, but you can also select the time or the day you want to incorporate mindfulness. You can also be mindful for one minute or ten minutes. The choice is yours.
More importantly, if I didn’t have a show that I want to watch, I would not eat with the television switch on. This means I will not find shows just to fill up my time while eating. When you have the awareness to stop yourself from doing something that you don’t enjoy instead of mindlessly going through the motion, this is already a mindfulness practice on its own.
After you start to get comfortable with your mindfulness practice, you can then go ahead and explore something more advanced and longer like formal mindfulness meditation.
Featured Photo Credit: Kelvin Valerio